Hurricane Agatha leaves at least 11 dead and 33 missing in Mexico

Agatha "is the strongest hurricane to make landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast in May" since the NHC began keeping records in 1949, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Hurricane Agatha leaves at least 11 dead and 33 missing in Mexico
The arrival of Hurricane "Agatha" to the Mexican coast of Oaxaca. Image: Conagua

At least 33 people are missing after the passage of Hurricane Agatha in Mexico, reported Wednesday by the government of Oaxaca, a state in the south of the country, which raised the death toll to 11. "There are 33 missing and 11 deaths basically in the upper coastal area," Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat said in a video call during the daily presidential conference.

Hurricane Agatha, the first hurricane of the season in the Mexican Pacific, was downgraded Monday to a tropical storm after making landfall on the southwest coast of the country as a category 2. The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a late report that the storm has maximum sustained winds of 110 km per hour and is moving at 13 km per hour.

Agatha made landfall earlier in the day west of Puerto Angel, a beach community of about 2,500 people in the state of Oaxaca. The NHC forecast that the storm will continue to weaken over the next few hours and will dissipate over Mexican territory during Tuesday afternoon. Agatha quickly gained strength due to high sea temperatures and initial forecasts did not rule out a Category 3 storm.

The beaches of the Oaxacan coast looked cloudy and with rough seas on Monday morning, while residents stocked up on water and food and protect homes and businesses. Classes and non-essential activities were suspended in the affected area. "The shelters are already open, people are already arriving (...), we are at a redpoint, this is coming and it's coming hard," Roberto Castillo, from Huatulco Civil Protection, warned AFP.

The government of Oaxaca set up 203 temporary shelters with a capacity to house 26,800 people, and hotels were set up to receive tourists. A total of 5,240 domestic and foreign visitors have been identified in the risk zone in Oaxaca, which is home to resorts such as Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, popular with European and U.S. surfing tourists.

Flood risk from hurricane Agatha

Mexico's Meteorological Service reported that the phenomenon will continue to cause heavy rains in Oaxaca and regions of the neighboring states of Chiapas and Guerrero. Authorities closed ports to navigation in those regions, while airlines began to cancel flights to the international airport of Huatulco, on the coast of Oaxaca, on Sunday.

In the area affected by the storm, there are numerous and plentiful rivers, for which the Mexican Meteorological Service has warned of possible overflows and landslides. Mexico is hit by tropical cyclones every year on both its Pacific and Atlantic coasts, usually between May and November.

The 2021 hurricane season in the Pacific, which runs from May 15 to November 30, was moderately active with 40 events. Of these, 15 were hurricanes, according to the Mexican Meteorological Service.